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Angelina Jolie's shocking disclosure yesterday that she had a prophylactic double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer was followed today by more news that the mom of six is also planning to have her ovaries removed, according to People. That's because her BRCA1 gene mutation, which raises her risk for developing breast cancer up to 87 percent in her lifetime, also raises her risk for developing ovarian cancer up to 44 percent. Her mother Marcheline Bertrand died from ovarian cancer at age 56.
Her husband, Brad Pitt, told USA Today that the experience has made them "stronger" as a family. The actor said that it's been "an emotional and beautifully inspiring few months. And I'll tell you, it's such a wonderful relief to come through this and not have a spectre hanging over our heads. To know that that's not going to be something that's going to affect us. My most proudest thing is our family. This isn't going to get that."
In this respect, Angelina Jolie is not too different from any other mom who has made this choice for the sake of her family. Jolie is a previvor -- a person who has not had cancer but has a high risk for developing it. And like the women in my book, Previvors: Facing the Breast Cancer Gene and Making Life-Changing Decisions, her decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy was certainly not an easy one. But the fact that she's a mom was clearly a major catalyst for her, as it is for millions of other moms around the world grappling with similar health issues.
Part of it is the fear that comes along with motherhood. As Mayde, one of the previvors in my book, told me, "When I was single and didn't have anyone depending on me, the threat of breast cancer was scary. But once I had my son and daughter, the fear hit a whole new level. I wasn't just afraid for myself anymore. I was afraid for them."
Part of it is the responsibility of parenthood. Like many moms, Amy, a single mom who's also in my book, thought of logistics when deciding to have a prophylactic mastectomy. She said, "With three kids, I just don't have time to get sick and deal with having breast cancer. I have to keep up with them."
And part of it is knowing what it's like to lose a mother -- Jolie lost her mom to cancer at a young age just a few years ago. As another woman, Lisa, explains in Previvors, "My mom and I used to talk on the phone at least two or three times every day, and I still often reach for the phone to call her, even years after her death. I'm so devastated not having my mother with me, and I'm not willing to let my three kids go through what I've been through. They lost their grandmother. That's enough."
Whatever Jolie's specific reasons for having the surgery are, being a mom clearly played a big role. As she said in The New York Times piece, "My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."
WATCH: Angelina Jolie Reveals She Has Had a Double Mastectomy